- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ISRAEL

Palestinian rams cars with truck

JERUSALEM | A Palestinian rammed a construction truck into three cars and a bus near the Jerusalem hotel where Sen. Barack Obama is supposed to stay Tuesday, injuring four people before an Israeli civilian shot and killed the attacker, police and witnesses said.

The attack was a chilling copycat of a similar incident earlier this month when another Palestinian plowed his front loader into a string of vehicles and pedestrians on a busy Jerusalem street about three miles away. Three people were killed in that attack and dozens were wounded before an off-duty soldier shot and killed the assailant.

Both Palestinians were from East Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in 1967 along with the West Bank. The 208,000 Palestinians who live there are not Israeli citizens but carry Israeli ID cards that allow them freedom of movement throughout Israel, unlike West Bank Palestinians.

Police said in the latest attack, a civilian driving nearby saw what was happening, jumped out of the car and shot the driver. A border policeman who rushed to the scene also shot the driver. Police sealed off possible escape routes into predominantly Arab East Jerusalem and were searching for two suspects who fled, police said.

The attacker struck a busy part of downtown Jerusalem, several hundred yards from the luxury King David Hotel where Mr. Obama is scheduled to stay. The incident took place about seven hours before Mr. Obama was to arrive in Israel.

TURKEY

Court to hear case on party July 28

ANKARA | Turkey’s highest court will hold a final hearing in a case to close the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) for suspected Islamist activities July 28, a court official said Tuesday.

The Constitutional Court’s verdict could be announced on the same day or soon after. Eleven judges will vote and seven votes in favor are needed to shut down the ruling party.

A chief prosecutor also wants to bar Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul and 69 leading AKP figures from party membership for five years on charges of seeking to introduce Islamic Shariah law in Turkey.

More than 20 parties have been banned for Islamist or Kurdish separatist activities in the past few decades, but none has had as much popular support as the AKP.

KUWAIT

$132 billion Silk City planned in desert

LONDON | Fueled by soaring oil prices, Kuwait has ambitious plans to invest $132 billion building a model city in its northern desert, complete with rail links to the rest of the Middle East, Central Asia and China.

The high-concept project may seem outlandish on one level, but Kuwait’s leadership is committed to the plan, according to one of the project’s originators, who argues that it could bring unprecedented political and economic gains to the region, including establishing better business ties with Israel.

London-based architects Eric R. Kuhne & Associates have drawn up designs for the project, to be called Madinat al-Hareer or Silk City, which would include a more than half-mile-high skyscraper.

The city, set for completion in 2023, would be home to around 700,000 people and linked to the capital, Kuwait City, by a dedicated mega-causeway. But more importantly, it would also be linked to the rest of the Middle East, Europe and far-flung corners of the world by rail, principally as a trade route.

BAHRAIN

Ban on work visas lifted

MANAMA | Bahrain has lifted a ban on work visas for Bangladeshis, two months after suspending the permits when a mechanic from Bangladesh was accused of a gruesome murder, a Bangladeshi diplomat told Agence France-Presse.

But the granting of visas was made conditional on applicants being over 25 years of age and providing a good conduct certificate from their country’s Interior Ministry, he said.

There are currently 90,000 Bangladeshis living in Bahrain, he added. Like other Arab states in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain relies heavily on unskilled Asian workers in low-paid jobs such as construction and domestic help.

The mechanic was charged with premeditated murder after he purportedly slit the victim’s throat with a hacksaw during an argument over payment for work on the victim’s car.

SYRIA

Rights group calls for prison riot probe

BEIRUT | New York-based Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called on Syria to order an independent inquiry into the deadly shooting of prisoners during a jail riot this month and to disclose the victims’ names. Syria has said little about the riot which erupted July 5 at Sidnaya prison, 19 miles northwest of capital Damascus.

The authorities said it had been put down by the following day. But the jail remains surrounded by security forces, visits are banned and a nearby hospital is also off limits.

“Syrian human rights organizations reported that as many as 25 may have been killed,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement, adding that it had obtained the names of nine inmates thought dead.

One member of the military police was also confirmed dead following his burial near Aleppo, the statement said.

Syria’s state news agency reported July 6 that anti-riot police had intervened “to restore calm” after “several prisoners convicted of extremism and terror crimes created chaos,” suggesting the involved prisoners were Islamists.

Syria, which has been ruled by the Ba’ath Party since 1963, holds thousands of Islamists and other political prisoners, including writers and human rights advocates.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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